As with many moms, I spent most of my first pregnancy educating myself on birth positions, birth plan options and what items I may want during labor and the post-partum period. I had created a dream birth team to help guide and support me throughout my pregnancy and labor/delivery, but someone critical was missing.
At the time, I didn’t know who it was. I didn’t even consider that my biggest struggle and most mental (and physical) battle surrounding motherhood would be something that I always passed off as so natural and so easy. My intuition and everything I had prepared for stopped just short of the final key player…a lactation expert.
Discovering Something Was Wrong
Pregnancy was a joy and I loved every minute of it. The days I gave birth to my babies are the greatest accomplishments of my life. Nursing my first born was the most painful and dreaded experience of my first three months of becoming a mother. And truth be told, it wasn’t until my third baby (my most traumatic nursing experience) that I made the connection that something was likely very wrong. She wasn’t gaining weight, she had ‘dust’ in her diapers and it was obvious she was unable to drain my breasts and get the milk she needed. By day four we were having daily visits with our birth and lactation team.
Here is what we were experiencing:
Very painful latch
Lipstick nipples (flattened nipples after feeds) and cracked/bleeding nipples
Baby was clicking at the breast
While nursing, milk was leaking out the sides of baby’s mouth
The sides of her cheeks dimpled in as she tried to transfer milk
She gagged often and easily
Colic/gassy from extra air intake
The tip of her tongue looked like a heart when she tried to stick it out
When we watched her stick her tongue out, it never came past her bottom lip
Our daughter was often stretching/arching her back and kicking her legs straight
The lactation consultant noted a very high palate
She was congested and sounded very nasally
A Tongue Tie Diagnosis
These were (are) all potential indicators that there may be a tongue and or lip restriction (tethered oral tissue-TOTs). Our lactation expert referred us to a pediatric dentist who specialized in TOTs for an evaluation. Within minutes of our time with the dentist, it was confirmed that her oral tissues were very tight and a laser treatment to release the tissue was recommended.
That was the beginning of our new normal on our two-year nursing journey. It was not an easy road, but it was hope-filled, and that was exactly what I needed.
Find an Expert Early
The best time to establish a relationship with this critical contact is during pregnancy. It is so helpful, and stress-reducing to know what possibilities exist and to recognize that breastfeeding is not always easy. More importantly you can establish a contact and a plan to call BEFORE you need help. My best recommendation is that every newborn is assessed by someone trained in lactation, and then a pediatric dentist when appropriate. Every expecting, and certainly new, mother needs a lactation expert on their side.